Body Image (1): Beautifully Ugly

It is a great honor that God confers upon us when he desires to dwell in us.

(John Calvin).

Let’s face it. My entire lower body has become visually unattractive. Objectively speaking it is no longer aesthetically pleasing. In short: my legs are ugly. On the left side, the upper thigh has two wrinkly pink patches, each about the width of a duct tape strip. The back of the knee has a gaping hole that folds over itself like the skin of a pachyderm when the knee is bent. That hole was plugged up with skin from those wrinkly pink patches that cover ligaments and tendons, but you can still see them move because there’s no other soft tissue there. There is a bulging hernia on the shin and scars on the knee. Still, the left side looks adorable compared to the right.

On the right leg, there are countless pink/purple dimples from holes made from the pins of a frame that held my leg together for 16 months. Some of these holes are actually more like track marks from those pins dragging through the skin as the leg was stretched. There is another elongated crater on the shin from being cut open to alleviate “compartment syndrome.” That spot received some skin from those wrinkly pink patches too. There is a huge, uneven patch of red skin from scarring that turns dark purple or orange, depending what’s happening at the time. Flesh was sewn up in various places; most notably the spot through which the knee and femur so rudely appeared during the accident. The right leg is in a permanent 10 – 20 degree bend. The overall leg shape is just too weird to explain. It is lumpy, especially when it’s swollen.

See, my legs are ugly. I am faced with them every day and try to learn from them. There are three lessons I’ve kicked around over the last few days: 1) my temple is still a temple, 2) there is a great analogy about the body and the church, and 3) there’s a future regarding our bodies and a hope we have because of them. Here are my thoughts on the first subject:

It’s Still a Temple

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19). 

At the turn of the century, my fitness addiction was in full swing. I became a certified personal fitness trainer. When this phase was at its peak, I lifted weights for an hour and did an hour of cardiovascular training each day, up to six days per week. My body was one of my gods, but I was never satisfied with it. My own body image was skewed. When I came to my senses, I still felt fitness was important but began to view these efforts as a stewardship issue. I only have one body so I must take care of it.

Since that time, I have retired from the Air Force (one motivation for staying fit) and have gone through various phases of fitness, from being a complete couch potato/desk jockey, to preparing for the physical demands of the 24 Peaks Challenge (see my blog Good, Good Water).  After my accident, I found that my previous efforts had paid off and I was able to do things that others in my situation couldn’t.  But lifting weights, one of my favorite pastimes, wasn’t working out for me very well.  It seemed like whenever I exerted myself, I got an infection and had to hold off on physical conditioning.  When I went back to work, fatigue set in so badly, any type of exercise became unrealistic.  This was very frustrating. 

The frustration lasted for about two years.  Once this summer (2019) started for me, which was early July, I was able to train in earnest.  I hit the gym for six weeks, concentrating on building up my strength.  (You can see some videos on the “Rejoicing Bones” YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/l4Dy_zEeS5U).  The progress I made was very satisfying.  In some areas, I have regained all the strength I’ve lost since the accident two years ago.  Some people have told me that I am an inspiration.  That is good.  But I don’t feel that there’s been any other way for me to respond.  I’ve been given one body to last this side of heaven, so I need to make it last for a couple of more decades – maybe three, Lord willing.   It’s still the body I have to honor God with.

Now, the body will fail eventually.  That’s why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16 that we are outwardly wasting away.  So, does that mean I’m wasting my time by working out?  Absolutely not.  I want to give all I have to the Lord until he takes me home.  This means I want this body to be as serviceable as possible.  I also think that, if quality of life improves from what I’m doing, my mind will be sharper and I’ll be able to speak up for the God who has done such wonderful things for me.  While I’m on this earth, my legs may not work so well.  I may even lose one of them.  But the rest of me will have to be taken care of.  It is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  And it is beautiful.   

3 thoughts on “Body Image (1): Beautifully Ugly

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